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Salvadorans cry out for truth in 1989 murder of six priests and two women

The Jesuit community and hundreds of Salvadorans in an emotional and colorful procession of lanterns demanded Saturday to know the “truth” of the murder of six Jesuit priests and two women committed by army troops 33 years ago during the civil war (1980-1992).

“The truth is a right of the people to know who committed these atrocious crimes (of the priests and women) and why they committed them so that they do not happen again,” the rector of the Jesuit Central American University (UCA), said priest Andreu Oliva.

With candles or flowers in their hands and with banners with the faces of the murdered priests, the procession went through the streets of the campus of the UCA, in the southwest of San Salvador.

“The murdered priests were good people who fought for the poor, that is why we remember them and ask for justice,” Domitila Cruz, 67, who came from the rural community of Bajo Lempa, some 85 km southeast of San Salvador, told AFP.

The Roque Dalton University Front (FURD) demanded in a communiqué “to bring to light all the atrocities committed by the army in the military dictatorships and what the neoliberal right wing has continued until today”.

On the main street of the campus, UCA students made colorful carpets with images of the martyrs.

On a large carpet they stamped the slogan of the 33rd anniversary of the crime: “Because the struggle is just, hope does not faint”.

In the early morning of November 16, 1989, in the midst of a guerrilla offensive on San Salvador, members of the now outlawed Atlacatl battalion committed the multiple crime on the UCA campus.

The victims were the Spanish-Salvadoran Ignacio Ellacuría (rector of the UCA), the Spanish Ignacio Martín Baró (vice-rector), Segundo Montes, Amando López and Juan Ramón Moreno, as well as the Salvadorans Joaquín López, Elba Ramos and her daughter Celina.

In September 1991, a court tried nine members of the military who were listed as the material perpetrators without taking into account the intellectual authors, according to humanitarian organizations.

In that trial, only Colonel Guillermo Alfredo Benavides was found guilty of all the murders, and Lieutenant Yusshy René Mendoza was held responsible for the death of the minor Celina.

Both officers regained their freedom under a 1993 amnesty law, but Benavides was jailed again to complete his 30-year sentence after the amnesty was declared time-barred in 2016.

On January 16, 1992, with the signing of government-left-wing guerrilla peace accords, the civil war that left more than 75,000 dead, 7,000 missing and millions in losses to the economy came to an end.

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